Jack Ma’s advice to Kenyan entrepreneurs

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On his first trip to Africa, Jack Ma, the founder of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, spoke in Nairobi about the value of constant learning and the power of the internet in spurring the growth of enterprises.

He explained how the combination of the two can be utilized to solve the day-to-day challenges facing the continent.

Ma also spoke about the process of failure, and how that can be a catalyst for innovation and progress.

Ma, who is special adviser for youth entrepreneurship to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development is on a two-day trip to Kenya and Rwanda to share insights with African entrepreneurs.

The Chinese business mogul was well received in the country.

Floor-to-ceiling posters and billboards featuring his face decorated various venues where he spoke  in Nairobi.

Ma, who also met President Uhuru Kenyatta, was accompanied by a delegation of Chinese billionaires, investors, and real estate tycoons.

From an underdog to one of the richest men in the world, Ma’s story is one that resonates among many young entrepreneurs in Kenya.

He applied for 30 jobs, including at KFC when it opened in his home city of Hangzhou.

He was rejected by all of them.

Ma struggled to go to college. He failed the entrance exam three times, and started Alibaba from his apartment.

Ma’s visit coincides with China’s growing influence in Africa, with foreign direct investment from China to Africa  growing with 106% rise in projects last year.

Speaking at a panel with the head of the private sector alliance, he said that they were scouting for investment opportunities and was looking for partners interested in building logistics centres and supporting entrepreneurs.

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